Recently, I was going through some old boxes and found a journal from 2004 when I worked as an internal change agent in the role of Director of Organizational Effectiveness. Most of the notebook was filled with observations and ideas for how to implement that new role. Within its pages, I found a great list of questions I had used to increase employee engagement. I thought I would share the questions with you.
As a change practitioner, engaging employees is an important part of your job. To reduce resistance and increase ownership, you need to engage people in the change you are implementing, involving them and giving them some control of their situation. Employee engagement may in fact be the change you seek to implement, involving those who are doing the work to identify problems and solutions to improve the organization.
One of the best tools you can use to engage employees is a question about things that affect their own work. Combine that with an ear for listening and the ability to help them clarify, explore and pursue it, and you can spark ideas and invite someone to be a part of helping the organization. Frame the question around the change you want to implement, and you’ll gain a partner to help you get it done.
Here are 50 questions that can be used to start the conversation and engage employees:
- What annoyed you in the last 15 minutes?
- What makes you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall?
- What needs a process?
- What should we stop doing?
- What could benefit from better coordination?
- What department should know more about what you do everyday?
- What do we waste?
- What do you roll your eyes at?
- What do we use too much of?
- What could we use more of?
- What is broken?
- What are you afraid to suggest?
- Where do we contradict ourselves?
- Where are things falling through the cracks?
- What is shrouded in mystery?
- What should we automate?
- What gets in the way of doing your job flawlessly?
- What fires do you constantly put out?
- Where could we use a little more structure?
- Where could we use a little more consistency?
- Where could we use a little more flexibility?
- What should we protect?
- What do we need to be especially good at?
- What do we need to take more seriously?
- What do we need to take less seriously?
- What should we do that would never work in a million years?
- What do we do that an outsider would think is crazy?
- What do we do that an outsider would think is awesome?
- What could we do better if we just had more information?
- What part of this is boring?
- What part of this is aggravating?
- How could we serve customers better?
- If you were in charge, what would you want done better?
- What do you have to do over?
- If you did this work, how would you do it differently?
- If (someone else) did this work, how would they do it differently?
- What should you suggest, even though it might hurt someone’s feelings?
- What should you suggest, even though it might make someone look bad?
- What should you suggest, even though it might make you look bad?
- If there were something you could wave a magic wand on, what would it be?
- What would you tell someone to discourage them from working here?
- What do we spend too much money on?
- What do we not spend enough money on?
- Whose job would you want and why?
- Whose job would you not want and why?
- Where could we use a symphony conductor?
- What do we not pay enough attention to?
- What do we seem to care too much about?
- Where are we missing a piece of the puzzle?
- What should we flush down the toilet and start over?
There are a number of ways you can use these questions to spark engagement. Use some of them in one-on-one conversations to collect experiences and see others’ points of view. Build a few into a meeting or workshop to get people talking about things they usually wouldn’t. Include them in a newsletter or other communication vehicle with an invitation to answer and an easy way to participate. When it comes to engagement, asking is far more effective than telling.
Asking great questions starts with genuine curiosity. To turn them into questions that engage, follow through by helping people define solutions, and make sure they can find the means to implement them.